Aussie Hells Angel and wife get death penalty
EXCLUSIVE: An Australian Hells Angels outlaw biker and drugs trafficker and his wife have been sentenced to death in Thailand over an attempt to smuggle half a tonne of crystal meth via that country to Australia.
Luke Joshua Cook and his Thai wife Kanyarat Wechapitak were arrested last December at the Bangkok international airport off a flight from Australia after local police linked him to a plot of attempting to import methamphetamine into Thailand two years earlier.
The Thai courts sentenced the pair to death for the plot to traffic the crystal meth, also known as ice, with an estimated street value of $300 million, although their sentences are expected to be commuted to life in jail. Assets linked to the pair worth $800,000 including property, cash and cars were to be formally forfeited.
The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment citing "privacy" reasons but a spokeswoman confirmed "the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to an Australian in Thailand".
Police accused Cook, 35, of co-ordinating the movement of drugs from China to the Thai coast in 2015 although the haul was dumped overboard after the Thai Coast Guard came across the yacht named Jomandy bought by Cook specifically for the operation.
The patrol boat saw a man dumping bags over the side but he escaped in the dim early morning light about the waters off Chonburi. Later that day four sacks containing about 50kg of the meth were found washed ashore on Mae Ramphueng Beach in Rayong province.
Thai authorities alleged Cook was given $15 million by Hells Angels boss Wayne Schneider to buy and store the drugs in 2015 for later shipment to Australia.
After the failed drugs delivery, Schneider - a fugitive who was wanted in Australian on multiple warrants and was deemed at the time to be the biggest importer of narcotics into Australia - demanded his money back but was then murdered in November that year by members of his own gang, his naked and mutilated body found in a shallow grave by the side of a road in beach resort town of Pattaya.
Cook was convicted and handed a two-year suspended sentence over his involvement in the Schneider murder after attempting to help former Sydney gangster and champion kickboxer Antonio Bagnato to flee the country and across the border to Cambodia.
Bagnato, was arrested found guilty and sentenced to death over the murder later commuted to life in prison. He was also wanted in Australia over the murder of racing identity Bradley Dillon in Leichardt in August 2014 over a debt owed to a secret society of men belonging to an illegal fight club.
The arrest of Cook and his 40-year-old wife last December was part of a series of raids by reawakened Thai police in an operation dubbed "Clipping the Wings of Angels" as it sought to smash Australian OMCG-led bikie chapters in Thailand.
Several Aussies were arrested and deported and at least two remain on the run. Thai police said the Australian men were involved in drugs, extortion, money laundering, weapons, human trafficking for the sex industry and posed a national threat to security.
An investigation by News Corp Australia late last year found in Thailand alone, 36 OMCG chapters have been established by Australian-led or affiliated gang members, particularly around the popular tourist resort cities of Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai and capital Bangkok.
Chapters have also been established in Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, through a bunch of shelf companies, and soon also Laos and Vietnam, while in Japan there is now evidence OMCG Australian affiliates have linked with the fearsome Yakuza.
In Myanmar, known Australian gangsters are sourcing drugs to on-send to Australia and recruiting locals to protect their hauls through to shipment stage. Other drugs, predominantly meth and precursor chemicals are being sourced from China and India but transiting Thailand and Malaysia.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has actively been looking at disrupting bikie operations, last year producing a record more than 400 intelligence reports about significant on and offshore biker activities to share with law enforcement partners.
A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said it was not appropriate to comment as it was a matter for the Thai authorities.
"The AFP was briefed in relation to this matter following the arrest by Thai authorities," a spokesman said last night.
"The AFP had no involvement in the Thai investigation that resulted in this man's arrest and subsequent conviction."